Directed by: Alex Hardcastle
Premise: In 2002 the captain of a high school cheerleading squad goes into a coma. She wakes up twenty years later and reenrolls in high school with the single-minded goal of ascending the social ladder and becoming prom queen.
What Works: Senior Year is ostensibly a comedy but all the best scenes are dramatic moments. Stephanie, played in her older incarnation by Rebel Wilson, hangs onto the dream of becoming prom queen because she’s convinced herself that it is the key to a perfect life. The scenes in which Senior Year deals with aging and the delusions of youth have some dramatic weight and it’s too bad the filmmakers didn’t concentrate on that.
What Doesn’t: Senior Year is a movie without a coherent vision. It’s not clear who this movie is made for. The protagonist is a millennial who is thrust among Gen Z students and the film is caught between the generations, doing neither of them justice. Senior Year is full of pop culture references from the early 2000s but the movie doesn’t do anything funny or interesting with them. The fish-out-of-water scenario ought to reveal something about the Millennial high school experience but Senior Year has nothing to say about that. The movie also fails to make any comedy out of that generational difference the way 2012’s 21 Jump Street did. Senior Year’s depiction of contemporary adolescence is at best caricature. Hollywood films about high school always involve some degree of fantasy but The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High and even American Pie got at something authentic about adolescence. Senior Year comes across as though the screenwriters only knowledge of today’s teenagers came from trawling Instagram and Tick Tock. These young people have no personalities or complexity so the film won’t speak to the Gen Z audience or explain them to older viewers. The plotting of Senior Year is proportioned all wrong. Stephanie’s story has aspects that are potentially interesting, namely the untimely death of her mother, but those moments are glossed over in favor of high school comedy clichés. Other aspects of Senior Year have potential, namely a conflict between Stephanie’s rival and her mother (Jade Bender and Zoe Chao) but the film doesn’t lay enough groundwork for the climax to achieve a meaningful payoff. Stephanie is not a sympathetic protagonist. She comes across whinny and privileged and generally treats people poorly. There is little reason to care if she gets what she wants and much better reasons to hope for her failure. Senior Year is also not very funny. The jokes are obvious and the movie is frequently cringe inducing.
DVD extras: On Netflix.
Bottom Line: Senior Year is a badly conceived high school comedy. The humor is lame and the storytelling is clumsy. The sparks of originality or insight are drowned out by the clichés.
Episode: #903 (May 29, 2022)